Only one of the two gay Saudi journalists locked in Australian detention was released by authorities due to a clerical bungle, the pair’s lawyer claims.
For two months, the couple who are known only under the pseudonyms Sultan and Nassar, have remained in an Australian detention centre after fleeing Saudi Arabia.
But while Nassar was released into the community on Friday, the couple’s lawyer has slammed the Federal Government for bungling the other’s paperwork.
Immigration Minister David Coleman unexpectedly went on indefinite personal leave on Friday.
However, LGBTIQ group just.equal claim Coleman left the paperwork for Sultan unsigned. This was despite the man meeting the requirements for release.
Speaking from detention, Sultan said the error “amounts to cruel and unusual punishment for seeking a safe existence.”
“Being separated over a clerical error has added unnecessary suffering as we approach the Christmas season,” he said.
“Nassar has said he wishes he did not get released so that we would at least be together.
“Despite the mental anguish of our separation, I’m pleased I’m inside instead of him.”
However, the government will soon shut down for Christmas. Only the signature of recently-appointed Acting Minister Alan Tudge can reunite the pair.
just.equal spokesperson Ivan Hinton-Teoh said only releasing one partner would be “absolutely heartless at a time when so many are looking forward to enjoying time with family.”
“The Government must release the detained partner immediately or be condemned for allowing failures in our bureaucracy to continue to persecute someone who has come seeking our protection,” he said.
Just.equal calls on government to reunite the couple
Sultan and Nassar fled Saudi Arabia after authorities allegedly outed them. The gay Saudi journalists arrived in Australia in mid-October on tourist visas.
However, airport customs officials immediately detained them after they said they planned to seek asylum. Authorities took the couple to the immigration detention centre where they remained for two months.
Homosexuality is illegal and punishable by death in Saudi Arabia.
Mr Hinton-Teoh said the Australian government should never have detained the two men.
“The two men have fled a regime that would have gaoled them, or worse,” he said.
Hinton-Teoh said the country “they hoped would give them freedom” then imprisoned them.
“Now, for no other reason than a mistake in paperwork, the government has separated them again and appears to have no sense of urgency in correcting the error,” he said.
“Australia should not do the Saudi Government’s job.
“Minister Alan Tudge, don’t look forward to your time with family while the government continues to separate Sultan from his partner for no greater reason than someone made a mistake in the paperwork.”
just.equal is encouraging Australians to, respectfully, bring Sultan’s case to the attention of Tudge. The group has created a campaign page with the MP’s contact details.
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